Beer, then pizza
Hot City Pizza
Sacramento, CA 95819
Sacramento seems to have a diverse and knowledgeable crowd of pizza lovers. Many of the city’s pizzerias specialize in a certain style of the dish and attract patrons interested in eating one particular style of pie. For example: Hot Italian, Masullo, Pizza Rock and OneSpeed cook up authentic Neapolitan pizza; Zelda’s Gourmet Pizza and Chicago Fire serve hearty Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas; and Giovanni’s Pizzeria and Uncle Vito’s offer thin New York-style slices.
Then there’s Hot City Pizza in East Sacramento, which is probably better known for its beer than its food.
Of course, Hot City Pizza serves pizza, too. And it’s pretty decent. Each slice is made with a unique multigrain crust that’s soft, airy and helps soak up a belly full of beer. Hot City’s pizza menu is full of interesting topping combinations, notably a section full of chicken-topped pizza, plenty of vegetarian options, and handful of Pacific Islander-themed pies, such as the Polynesian, Hawaii on Fire and Lolo’ono—many of which feature copious pineapple.
On one trip, I sampled the Hawaii on Fire pizza, which comes topped with sweet Thai chili sauce, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, green peppers, pineapple, jalapeño and mozzarella cheese. Its ingredients play well together, with the sweetness of the chili sauce and pineapple nicely juxtaposing the spiciness of the jalapeño and the saltiness of the pepperoni and bacon. The downside of the ubiquitous fruit topping is that it’s canned, and its overly soft, soaked-in-syrup texture makes the whole pizza a bit soggy. On another visit, in a futile attempt to try every topping, I ordered The Primo, Hot City’s take on a combination pizza. It’s hearty and full of flavor, but lacks the inventiveness of the Hawaii on Fire.
The hot wings aren’t particularly adventurous, either, but they still pair well with any craft beer and a sports game playing in the background. The chicken salad—a green salad topped with chicken, but not the creamy mayonnaise-and-egg-filled chicken salad common at American barbecues—looks and tastes impressive. Copious mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, almonds and mozzarella blend together for a nice smorgasbord of color, texture and flavor.
In my book, atmosphere is an important component to Hot City Pizza’s success. It’s a small business, with only 10 to 15 seats inside, and eight or 10 chairs outside. There’s not much in terms of décor, save for a couple walls filled with beer advertisements. Nevertheless, the pizzeria—hidden in a strip mall between a dessert shop called Sweeties and a tanning salon—exudes a shabby-chic aesthetic, and its patrons collectively give off the vibe of a secret, hip college-town gathering. During several visits to the eatery, diners included a mix of families, students, cyclists and soccer fans. (On one visit, a Hot City television set was showing the World Cup qualifier game between the United States and Jamaica’s soccer teams.)
In addition to their jobs as cooks and waitstaff, the employees here all seem to double as personal beer concierges—offering plenty of advice and samples to those looking to order a certain type of beer. A recommendation to quaff Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge—a red sour Flemish ale from Belgium’s Bockor Brewery—satisfied my growing addiction to both Belgian beer and sour ale. Luckily, Hot City has one of the best selections of sours in town—probably second only to Pangaea Two Brews Cafe.
Overall, the pizza here is average. But Hot City gets an extra star for the fine beer selection and staff members’ willingness to help customers decide which beer to choose. With so many choices—there are several fridges full of beer bottles and a handful of rotating taps—selecting a brew can be a tremendously difficult undertaking. Taps rotate “as often as possible,” according to one employee. Pro tip: Head to the eatery on a Saturday for discounts on bottles of craft beer.